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Name of Work

Beethoven, Ludwig van (1770-1827)
Trio in B-flat Major Op. 11 for Clarinet, Cello and Piano (1993)

Allegro con brio


May 02, 1993

Larry Combs, Clarinet
Peter Rejto, Cello
Deborah Sobol, Piano

May 03, 1993

Larry Combs, Clarinet
Peter Rejto, Cello
Deborah Sobol, Piano

BEETHOVEN - Trio in B-flat Major Op. 11 for Clarinet, Cello and Piano

The young Beethoven was a virtuoso pianist, and also skilled on the violin and viola, but as far as anyone knows, he had no particular talent as a wind player. He learned a lot about winds, however, through his employment at the court of Elector Maximilian Franz in his native city of Bonn, where wind-ensemble music was especially cultivated. Beethoven started composing for wind instruments while he was still living in Bonn - his Op. 103 Wind Octet, in spite of its high catalogue number, is a work from this time period (he didn't see fit to publish it until many years after he'd written it, which explains the misleading opus designation). For the first few years after he moved from Bonn to Vienna, in 1792, he continued to write wind chamber music; after about 1800, though, his chamber-music inclinations turned almost exclusively to the string quartet and the piano-violin-cello trio. We'll hear tonight two of these works with winds: pieces that joined with his early quartets, solo sonatas, concertos, and symphonies to establish his reputation as the leading light of the Viennese musical scene at the turn of the 19th century.

The Op. 11 work, from 1798, is the only Beethoven "piano trio" that does not fall into the keyboard-and-two-strings configuration, although it's often forced into it by substituting a violin for the clarinet, for reasons of convenience. It sounds perfectly delightful that way, but tonight we will hear the original scoring. The work was probably written for Joseph Beer, a virtuoso clarinetist who had participated the year before in the premiere of the Quintet for Piano and Winds.

The three disparate tone-colors of piano, clarinet, and cello appear in unison at the start of the "Allegro con brio" movement; they are then exploited individually through a variety of startling modulations. The cello takes the lead at the start of the "Adagio" movement, whose theme recalls portions of another Beethoven work involving a clarinet and a cello (though not a piano): the Septet in E-Flat for Winds and Strings. The liveliest movement of the Trio is its finale, "Allegretto," a set of variations on a tune from one of the most popular comic operas in Vienna at the time: Love Among Seafarers by one Joseph Weigl. If the tune itself is somewhat trivial, the variations are not; Beethoven explores and expands his theme to make of it something altogether new and engaging. The first variation features the piano; others combine the clarinet and cello. Throughout the variations, there are striking changes of key and meter, and much more thematic interplay.

Program notes by Andrea Lamoreaux

Performed May 2 & 3, 1993

Performance Audio

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